Sunday, August 26, 2007
I came across this article by Edward Said in Al-Ahram Weekly, written shortly after the September 11th attacks. At the end of the article, most of which is fairly unsurprising stuff, after referring to the beginnings of the development of a constituency of Americans willing to take a more reflective and critical look at US policies in the Middle East, Said says this:
Perhaps this constituency may grow in the United States, but speaking as a Palestinian, I must also hope that a similar constituency should be emerging in the Arab and Muslim world. We must start thinking about ourselves as responsible for the poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, and repression that have come to dominate our societies, evils that we have allowed to grow despite our complaints about Zionism and imperialism. How many of us, for example, have openly and honestly stood up for secular politics and have condemned the use of religion in the Islamic world as roundly and as earnestly as we have denounced the manipulation of Judaism and Christianity in Israel and the West? How many of us have denounced all suicidal missions as immoral and wrong, even though we have suffered the ravages of colonial settlers and inhuman collective punishment? We can no longer hide behind the injustices done to us, anymore than we can passively bewail the American support for our unpopular leaders. A new secular Arab politics must now make itself known, without for a moment condoning or supporting the militancy (it is madness) of people willing to kill indiscriminately. There can be no more ambiguity on that score.
I have been arguing for years that our main weapons as Arabs today are not military but moral, and that one reason why, unlike the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Palestinian struggle for self- determination against Israeli oppression has not caught the world's imagination is that we cannot seem to be clear about our goals and our methods, and we have not stated unambiguously enough that our purpose is coexistence and inclusion, not exclusivism and a return to some idyllic and mythical past. The time has come for us to be forthright and to start immediately to examine, re-examine and reflect on our own policies as so many Americans and Europeans are now doing. We should expect no less of ourselves than we should of others. Would that all people took the time to try to see where our leaders seem to be taking us, and for what reason. Scepticism and re- evaluation are necessities, not luxuries.
Noble sentiments, and a corrective, perhaps, to any perception that Said was one-dimensional in his political outlook when it came to the Middle East.